He was one of the shortest-priced favourites of the season but Master Eight had to show some fight to secure his second straight victory and remain undefeated.
Frankie Lor Fu-chuen’s rising star joined an exclusive club at Sha Tin on Sunday, with only four other horses starting at $1.2 or shorter this season - Golden Sixty, Courier Wonder (both three times), Sky Field and Sight Success - and they’ve all won.
While the result went the right way for the majority of punters, there were a few nervous
moments in the straight when Master Eight was challenged, first by Quadruple Double and then by The Golden Scenery.
But in a mark of a good horse, the three-year-old responded to the challenge, holding on to win by three-quarters of a length.
Star jockey Joao Moreira confirmed things didn’t go exactly to plan but Master Eight was able to overcome those issues.
“I was committed to just maybe taking a sit with him and having something to look at but he was just too good, he just took me to the front,” the Brazilian said.
“At the top of the straight, he started to receive pressure from a horse on the outside
[Quadruple Double] and once he felt that, he just took off by himself. It showed he has got pride in him – he’s a fighter.
“At the finish, I started to push him and he responded again. He was the winner from the start to the finish. He’s a good horse. He’s done what I expected he would do and, once again, he’s given the feeling that he’s very exciting.”
That will be the last we see of Master Eight this season as Lor will take a conservative approach with an eye on bigger and better things in 2021-22.
“I think we’ll put him away now and get him ready for next season,” he said. “He’s still a young horse and he should be much better next season. He’s still got a lot of improvement in him.”
Exultant officially bows out
Reigning Horse of the Year Exulant has officially been retired, with the five-time Group One winner bowing out as Hong Kong’s second-highest prize money earner.
The Tony Cruz-trained seven-year-old won 11 of his 32 Hong Kong starts, racking up HK$83,491,900 in stakes to sit behind only Beauty Generation on the jurisdiction’s rich list.
Exultant’s first Group One win in the 2018 Hong Kong Vase was perhaps his best, beating home a crack field featuring Lys Gracieux, who went on to win the Cox Plate, and 2019 Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe victor Waldgeist.
While his last victory came in the 2020 Champions & Chater Cup, Exultant was consistent until the very end with three Group One placings this season.
“He’s officially retired. He’s been a very good horse. The owner wants to look after the horse, he could see him slipping already and we don’t want him to struggle and look silly,” Cruz said.
Zac Purton was in the saddle for all but seven of Exulant’s Hong Kong runs and was aboard for all the superstar’s big-race wins.
“It’s been a great ride, one I’ll always cherish and never forget,” the jockey said. “Exultant bows out as one of the best I had the privilege of riding.”
Cruz confirmed another top liner will follow Exultant out the stable door before season’s end, with three-time Group One winner Time Warp to retire after his run in next Sunday’s Group Three Premier Plate (1,800m).
“Time Warp will retire after this next race, win or lose. Time has caught up with him,” Cruz said.
Kwok’s Fighter dies
Dancing Fighter has died only a couple of weeks after setting a new 1,000m track record at Happy Valley, with the Caspar Fownes-trained speedster succumbing to colic in Conghua.
Owned by Hong Kong celebrity Aaron Kwok Fu-shing, Dancing Fighter won four times and placed in a further four races from 11 starts after beginning his career with a debut victory in December 2018.
The speedster’s crowning moment came at the city circuit on May 26, when he stormed to a Class Three victory in a lightning 56.09 seconds, slicing .02 off Stronger’s mark from February last year, and he was due to step out in Class Two for the first time in his next appearance.
“Me and my family are very sad, you will always be in my heart,” Kwok said on Instagram.
For Fun’s Sake saves his career
The Chris So Wai-yin-trained For Fun’s Sake saved his career with victory in the second
section of the Class Five Ting Kau Handicap (1,200m).
With the Jockey Club increasing the compulsory retirement rating to 25 this season, there are more than 35 horses in the danger zone and the only way out is to perform.
For Fun’s Sake did just that on Sunday, with Alexis Badel driving the four-year-old home to beat favourite Telecom Missile with Wayfoong Star running on for third.
For Fun’s Sake came into the race on a rating of 21 but that will increase to about 28, ensuring he can compete in the 2021-22 campaign.
Wong discovers more Treasure
Five weeks after sourcing his first winner of the season, Jack Wong Ho-nam has doubled his tally after piloting Sky Treasure to victory in the first section of the Class Five Ting Kau Handicap (1,200m) on the dirt.
Me Tsui Yu-sak’s seven-year-old secured the sixth win of his career, settling just off the speed before running over the top of his rivals to salute at $20.
It was a much-needed result for Wong, who was put on notice by the Jockey Club licensing committee on Monday after a poor season which has now netted just two wins and 16 placings from 271 rides.
It said: “[Wong’s] race riding performance during the current racing season is of concern and that should his race riding performance not improve significantly during the 2021-2022 racing season, he may not be granted a further freelance jockey’s licence.”
Every winner helps.